Sunday, August 7, 2011
Timoleon Vieta Come Home by Dan Rhodes
I've just finished Timoleon Vieta Come Home, by Dan Rhodes, and I feel I've been very gently, gently shaken until my teeth rattled. Though it is humor, this is not a book for a merry gambol. It's going to mess you up; depend on it. Yet it has the tone and flavor of a gentle frolic, disguising its very black worldview in the sorts of details and stylistic points one might generally classify as "amusing."
I found myself loving this book, which follows tendrils of plot, as an abandoned dog makes his way back home to Umbria from Rome, touching the lives of various characters around Italy. Don't worry -- it's not touching in that droopy, learn-how-to-feel sort of way. One of the stories is about a sister of someone who once photographed the dog. It's that tangential. And yet the idea of the book is firm and strong throughout, though the plot seems to wander so randomly along every branch of Timoleon Vieta's ramble.
The book is about damage, and the short distance between being damaged just enough to be real, and being damaged too much, hopeless. The difference between what ruin is romantic, and strange, and lovable, and what is too far gone, too messed up, unredeemably horrific. In some ways, it's brutal, this book, but in its heart it's also powerfully true. The cradle hovers over the abyss, and the difference between love and loss is a step, a flaring match, a couple of chromosomes, or a misunderstood folktale.
Dan Rhodes is a funny character. Judging from his blog, he is both funny ha-ha and funny odd, but I like him. I particularly like his long and belligerent pouting about bad reviews which violates all advice to writers and includes this graph:
I like his dry wit. I would definitely pick up another book by him, even if I feel a bit wary of getting punched in the eye again.